The Paonia High School football team keeps finding ways to win.
One week after just edging North Fork rival Hotchkiss 7-6, the Eagles shook off a sluggish start and dominated the second half in a 40-10 victory over Olathe last Friday night.
"It was only 13-10 at half. Gotta credit Olathe, they had a good game plan and came out fast," Paonia coach Brent McRae said. "We came out slow."
The Eagles trailed 7-0 after the first quarter. The defense started to figure out the Pirates ground game and Paonia took a 13-10 lead into halftime.
"Our kids just had to adjust and get used to defending that offense. They run that veer and it's hard to simulate in practice. They run it really well," McRae said. "But I was really happy with our effort, especially in the third quarter."
Paonia shut out the visitors 27-0 in the second half.
Senior Trevor Smith led the stalwart defensive effort with 11 tackles for the Eagles.
Senior quarterback Dagan Rienks threw for 155 yards off 10 for 16 passing, including a touchdown toss to Smith.
Jaden Miller led the Eagles rushing attack, toting the rock 12 times for 68 yards and a score. Rienks chipped in with two rushing touchdowns and Sackett Chesnik notched 23 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Smith collected 108 receiving yards with six grabs. Colby Simpson kicked 4-of-5 extra point attempts.
Olathe is sailing some rough water in its first season in the 1A Western Slope Conference after dropping down from 2A. The Pirates fell to 3-4, 0-3 WSC after the defeat.
Paonia, No. 2 in the recent CHSAA online poll, improved to 7-0, 3-0 WSC. The Eagles have had a strange road schedule this season and have been working in a lot of new players.
But nothing has changed on the scoreboard and Paonia hasn't lost a conference game in four years.
"Right now we're better than we have been," McRae said. "As long as we keep getting better than where we are I think we'll be okay."
The game of the year is Friday night, when the Eagles go to Meeker to take on the No. 4 Cowboys.
With two weeks remaining in the season, the winner will likely be the conference champion.
Meeker is led by junior quarterback Logan Hughes and boasts a high octane offense.
"They're tough. The thing about Meeker is they'll play really consistent. They don't make a lot of mistakes," McRae said. "You can't count on them turning the ball over; you can't count on them making penalties. You're going to have to beat them; they don't beat themselves."
McRae identified one key factor to beating the Cowboys.
"And you've got to play four quarters, that's something we haven't done yet," he said. "For us to win the game, the only way is to put four quarters together."